Might be perceived as little anal, but I'm pushing for a first
December 21, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Qualitative research: question on precisely what level of detail to include in Methodology?

I took a General Management MBA and with all required classes complete, am currently writing my dissertation (final stages, submitting the third week of January, oh yeh!). As part of the requirements for this degree, I had to undertake primary research, which I accomplished by means of a survey. The survey was driven by a sample consisting of a combination of Convenience / Snowball and Self-selected sources.

The response rate exceeded my targets giving me a solid dataset so I closed the survey on schedule. All good, but I seem to have hit a road block wrt Literature review, Methodology or Appendix and precisely where to place some information.

My survey consists of nineteen questions. Sixteen of these questions arose directly from the literature. I have dutifully cited source but I'm sorta unclear on precisely what level of detail to include.

Specifically, in literature review I noted the quandry / interesting issue raised by other researchers. For example,
Oshri (2007) suggests that information flows change over time, as the client / vendor relationship matures. Immature relationships see the client driving information to the vendor. The vendor provides little, if any value add in terms of unique information about shared goals. By contrast, the most mature of business relationships see the bulk of information moving from vendor to client, with remote teams providing insight and value add.

Which gave rise to a survey question as follows:
Question 10) How does information flow when you are working with your vendor?
  1. From client to vendor
  2. About equal
  3. From vendor to client

Now I've noted this in the appropriate section of my Methodology write up, "Instruments used for Data Collection" as
Oshri (2007) suggests that information flows change over time, as the client / vendor relationship matures.

Question 10) How does information flow when you are working with your vendor?
  1. From client to vendor
  2. About equal
  3. From vendor to client

But I'm a little uncertain if this level of is correct in the Methodology. I realise this could easily be pushed in an appendix, but then it seems this sections would solely detail the survey from a high level (i.e., nineteen questions in total, divided into three logical sections with questions structured to detect contradictory answers), as well as noted how I collected data.

Since this is a question regarding presentation structure and organisation, I'm not comfortable pushing it across to my advisor (but she has been regularly seeing and commenting on drafts) and guidebooks from the University don't address this specifically. I've googled up a few conflicting examples and Glatthorn, 1998 ("Writing the Winning Dissertation") isn't definitive on this either, so I'm a little unsure how to proceed.

Since my advisor hasn't raised this I suspect it might be a non issue, but I'm pushing hard for the highest possible grade, and would like to see how other folks who have undertaken qualitative research approached this or similar problems.

This has tossed me a little: my first Masters was Quantitative, so we really didn't have these issues i.e., I studied Equity Market Microstructure, and pricing data filled a couple of CDs which I included with the dissertation.
posted by Mutant to Education (6 answers total)
Here's the trick to writing up a methods section: Find 2-3 articles that used the same methodology that you did, and use those write ups as "inspiration" for your own.
posted by k8t at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2009

I recommend looking at the work of Kathleen Eisenhardt. She does a lot of qualitative research in management and has even written a couple of articles about the process.
posted by bove at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2009

Head to the library. Find other people's dissertations and see what they did. Do that.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2009

I work in a field with a lot of survey data. If you have a new instrument, I expect to see the questions. In a publication, it'd be common for them to go in an appendix. On the other hand, if there is guidance from the literature that you are relying on to generate this question or substantial disagreement about the validity of various approaches to measuring this construct, then plopping that in the main methods is certainly fine.

Looking at the most recent AJE, this article is this issue's free access. Skip to methods "Working hours and other baseline characteristics", and you will see that where they had new questions to ask people they give them verbatim.

Given that it's a dissertation where you have much less in the way of space restrictions and that the validity and interpretation completely turn on the questions you asked, give them verbatim in the methods.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2009

I have to write up a lot of qual and quant research, and I usually include the survey tool as an appendix, and refer to it in the methodology. In the methodology section I will generally discuss sections of the survey and what led to their development or what I was intending to collect, rather than detail each question. If it was my dissertation I would want to include more detail, and probably would discuss each question, but with similar themes grouped within paragraphs. This way the methodology has more flow, rather than a stilted collection of questions.

Without knowing else you are asking, I will assume for the sake of this example there are a three questions on the client/vendor relationship. Here is how I would write that paragraph:

Three questions were developed to examine the client/vendor relationship in more detail, these focused on information flows, [focus of second question], and [focus of third question]. Oshri (2007) suggests that information flows change over time, as the client / vendor relationship matures. Respondents were asked about there experience of this, with the possibility of choosing one of the following options: from client to vendor; about equal; from vendor to client. To understand [second question] the importance of which is indicated by [author x] for [reason y] respondents were asked...etc etc...For further detail on the survey tool please refer to appendix A.
posted by skauskas at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

ummm, their experience, not there experience.
posted by skauskas at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2009

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